The Federal Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment of non-infringement.  The patents-in-suit involved vacuum toilets used in commercial aircraft that use “line replaceable units.”  In one patent, the claim required a waste receptacle that is “toollessly” replaced.  The evidence showed that the accused receptable was not “toollessly” replaced, because it included two screw fasteners that required the use of a tool, i.e., they could not be turned using only one’s hands.  B/E Aerospace advertised that the fasteners could be turned with the use of a coin, which the court held, and the Federal Circuit affirmed, is a tool in this instance. 

B/E Aerospace cross-appealed on the issue of assignor estoppel.  The district court held that the fact that one of the inventors of Mag’s patent now works for B/E Aerospace, causing the doctrine of assignor estoppel to estop B/E Aerospace from contending that the patents are invalid.  The Federal Circuit affirmed, finding that the employment by B/E Aerospace of the inventor, who was hired to develop toilets and had developed the toilet at issue in this case, caused B/E Aerospace to be in privity with the inventor, and therefore B/E Aerospace was estopped from arguing that the patent is invalid. 

Mag Aerospace Industries, Inc. v. B/E Aerospace, Inc., Case Nos. 2015-1370, -1426 (March 23, 2016); Opinion by: Prost, joined by Mayer and Reyna; Appealed From: United States District Court for the Central District of California, Otero, J. Read the full opinion here.

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